Watandost in Urdu, Turkish and Farsi means "friend of the nation or country". The blog contains news and views about Pakistan and broader South West Asia that are insightful but are often not part of the headlines. It also covers major debates in Muslim societies across the world.
A Good Primer on Islamic Political Parties of Pakistan
Islamic Parties in Pakistan
Asia Report N°21612 Dec 2011
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The ability of Pakistan’s radical Islamic parties to mount limited but potentially violent opposition to the government has made democratic reform, and by extension the reduction of religious extremism and development of a more peaceful and stable society, more challenging. This is a reflection of those parties’ well-organised activist base, which is committed to a narrow partisan agenda and willing to defend it through violence. While their electoral support remains limited, earlier Islamisation programs have given them a strong legal and political apparatus that enables them to influence policy far beyond their numerical strength. An analysis of party agendas and organisation, as well as other sources of influence in judicial, political and civil society institutions, is therefore vital to assessing how Pakistan’s main religious parties apply pressure on government, as well as the ability and willingness of the mainstream parties that are moderate on religious issues to resist that pressure.
These parties’ ability to demonstrate support for their various agendas is an expression of coherent internal structures, policymaking processes and relations between the leadership and the rank-and-file. These aspects of party functioning are, therefore, as critical to understanding their role in the polity and prospects of influencing policy in the future as in understanding their relationship to the state.
The Islamic parties that are the subject of this report might operate within the current political order, but their ultimate aim is to replace it with one that is based on narrow, discriminatory interpretations of Islam. They have also taken equivocal positions on militant jihad: on the one hand, they insist on their distinction from militant outfits by virtue of working peacefully and within the democratic system; on the other, they admit to sharing the ideological goal of enforcing Sharia (Islamic law), while maintaining sizeable madrasa and mosque networks that are breeding grounds for many extremist groups.
Moreover, belying their claims of working peacefully, the major Islamic parties maintain militant wings, violent student organisations and ties to extremist groups, and have proved more than willing to achieve political objectives through force. After parlaying military support during the 1980s into significant political and legislative gains, and even absent military support and the electoral assistance that entailed, the parties have still been able to defend earlier gains through intimidation and violent agitation on the streets. In response, faced with their opposition, the mainstream moderate parties have often abandoned promised reforms while in government, or even made further concessions, such as the National Assembly’s constitutional amendment in 1974 declaring the Ahmadi sect non-Muslim.
Such compromises have not offset the pressure of the ulama (religious scholars), as intended, but only emboldened religious hardliners.
Inside Story about Musharraf-Mahmood Tussle Hassan Abbas: September 24, 2006
General Pervez Musharraf’s memoir In the Line of Fire is expected to generate a lot of debate and discussion in the days to come. Except some western journalists and Musharraf’s close friends (three ghost writers) hardly anyone has had a chance yet to read the book from cover to cover. The excerpts of the book leaked through Indian media and General Musharraf’s statements to some American media outlets however have already created some controversies. In the United States, controversy is considered a positive thing, so the book is bound to become a bestseller here, but in Pakistan probably the opposite is true.
This article is not a review of the book (as I haven’t got hold of a copy yet), but it endeavors to throw some light on the widely reported Musharraf comment about the Armitage threat conveyed through Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, the then Director General of the ISI. I had done research on this speci…
Confronting Extremism Through Building an Effective Counter-Narrative This article was originally published in the Development Advocate Pakistan on April 25, 2016.
While Pakistan is using kinetic means to push back terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-i-Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), it is still struggling to find an antidote to religious extremism and bigotry that provides space for extremist thinking and consequent violence across the country. The ideas of pluralism, religious harmony and openness to diverse political views have slowly given way to narrow mindedness, sectarianism and intolerance. The democratic experience is equipping Pakistan to revive its balance in the socio-political domain, but it is a fact that the social space in the country today is highly contested between extremist and progressive elements of society.
The blame for these trends within the media and policy circles of Pakistan is often directed towards regional confli…
Daily Times, February 9, 2006 Zuljanah, O zuljanah, come to my house!’ By Ali Waqar
LAHORE: Zuljanah, a pet horse symbolically named after Imam Hussain’s (AS) steed, is a major source of inspiration for mourners recalling the martyrdom at Karbala.
“Zuljanah, O zuljanah, come to my house,” children chant, waiting for the sacred horse on the processional route or outside their houses. The tradition of brining a zuljanah to selected houses in Muharram 10 processions is still practiced in many Pakistani towns, but in large cities like Lahore, the zuljanah has gradually been decentralised.
The procession is usually taken out on Muharram 9 and 10, to commemorate Imam Hussain’s (AS) martyrdom at Karbala 1,368 years ago. The tradition began in the subcontinent about 800 to 1,000 years ago, with Taimurlane’s arrival. It was gradually adopted throughout the subcontinent and became a religious icon, becoming a fundamental part of Muharram 10 processio…